Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In covering this exciting list, Fortune also shares some insights on the latest trending on work/life balance. The most important one being that work/life balance is dead. Before you become too upset, please understand that what sounds like bad news is genuinely good news. Here is why:
“Increasingly people are rejecting the notion of ‘work/life balance’ in favor of another phrase: ‘work/life integration.’ Thanks to smartphones and the growing popularity of working remotely, moving work around on dimensions of time and space is not only possible, but has become the norm.” (p. 139)
The reason that this is very good news is that it takes what used to be an often-difficult lifestyle challenge (work/life balance) and reframes it all into the context of the benefits and dynamics of our constantly evolving technology and professional worlds. For many jobs and occupations, we genuinely are no longer dealing with work/life balance. We are now dealing with work/life integration.
More good news: dealing with work/life integration is easier and superior to dealing with work/life balance. Work/life integration means that you negotiate with your employer exactly what you need for your life to function symbiotically with your job. Simultaneously, the more progressive your employer is, the more they respond positively and even take the lead in work/life integration. I have seen several companies over the past many years that do not even have official office hours. The nature of their work and their employees’ dedication coalesce to support work/life integration. They simply realize that work no longer is necessarily tied to a physical space or a specific time.
When companies adopt the work/life integration philosophy, it is a demonstration of their caring for their people. This is one of the reasons that a company makes it to the 100 best workplaces list. The work/life integration approach implicitly communicates to the employee that the company cares not just about the worker’s output, but the worker’s soul.
As technology continues its relentless evolution, as increasing numbers of companies recognize the trends, and as competition for top talent grows, the concept of work/life integration likewise will only grow. It will become the norm that every professional expects:
“For many people the ability to integrate work and life is like asking if a major firm offers health insurance. You assume so, but just want to check that box before the conversation continues.”
We hope increasing numbers of those conversations will continue.